Posts Tagged With: Moving

Contest Entry: Top Tips for Moving from Malaysia to Mongolia


I entered this blog in a writing contest for expat blogs, where we were asked to write a list that would be helpful for people to know about our country. The number of people moving from Malaysia to Mongolia is so small — though we do know a few — that I had to go a bit tongue-in-cheek with my list.

A Three-Month Retrospective: Some Things to Know in Case You’re in That Tiny Group of People Who Move from Malaysia to Mongolia:

1.    Forget the calendar — no matter that it may still be warm in much of the northern hemisphere — and put those sandals in storage. Hide your cotton shirts and “sweaters” too. When you see them in the drawer, they’ll either make you feel cold or sad.

2.    Pack plenty of spices and chilies. Not only in your shipped luggage for your own kitchen, but in little packets to keep in your purse or pocket for everyday. You will understand why, and thank me, when you start eating Mongolian food.

3.    The language difference is profound: Malay is much easier to pick up than Mongolian, and you can find lots of English speakers in Malaysia if you need help. This is not the case in Mongolia.

4.    Counter to the Asian stereotype, Mongolians will say no and are generally much more direct than Malaysians. This can be refreshing, but it may also feel a bit abrupt.

5.    Relatedly, Mongolians are much more open about bodily functions, especially sexuality, than most Malaysians, and all of it is fun to laugh about.

6.    If you move with your overfed American cat, he or she may well exceed the airline weight limit on all possible routes, and you will look like a freak for travelling with a cat in the cabin. Just smile and assume there are some animal lovers among the airline personnel – it’s just a matter of finding them.

7.    Mongolians, unlike Malaysians, aren’t interested in what religion you are, nor will they ask you about it.

8.    The good news is that you can let pedicure maintenance slide (see #1 above). The bad news is Hat Hair.

9.    You will miss the lively political discussions you used to have with Malaysian taxi drivers.

10.    In Mongolia, there is no such thing as too much moisturizer. In Malaysia, there is no such thing as too many umbrellas.

11.    If you’re American, you will be surprised and a bit embarrassed at how many more of your fellow countrymen and –women have heard of Mongolia than Malaysia.

12.    Mongolians don’t talk about their president’s wife. I’m just saying.

13.    There is no escaping big, dumb American action movies. Same goes for Pringles.

14.    You will remember that seasonal change means much more than just how many times a week it rains. And you will learn that seasonal change in Mongolia does not mean getting to put your coats away.

15.    Alcohol is MUCH cheaper in Mongolia, which can be good until some drunk guy bounces off you on the sidewalk.

16.    Consider either Mauritania or Macedonia as possible next expat stops, because it will seem as if you’ve made random moves until people work out the alliteration.

17.    Note that diplomacy between the two countries has been a bit dodgy, and you may want to google “Altantuya” to find out more about this history.

18.    Durian is much more appealing than mutton. Scientific research data backs me up.

19.    Re: #18 above, Malaysia totally kicks butt in the Quality of Life Category – Local Fruit, but Mongolia has the edge in Quality of Life Category – The Unexpected. Anything can happen here.

20.    Regardless of which place you’re living, you are an outsider and thus an object of curiosity. People will stare at you. It doesn’t matter.

21.    (I won’t repeat the platitude about maintaining a sense of humor, but if I were to do so, it would be here at #21.)

Thanks to all of you who commented and shared this contest entry.
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Our Stuff Arrived (And It Was Frozen) — UPDATED

It hadn’t occurred to us that, of course, one of the things that happens on a slow rail trip across China and into Mongolia this time of year is that stuff freezes en route. Which is pretty funny, when one of your things is a snow globe enclosing a photo of your dog, and inside, where the “snow” is, is full of real ice. Fortunately, our various chile sauces, maple syrup (duh) and sherry vinegar are fine, but poor Phil had a leg fall off. The movers were horrified that they’d broken him somehow, but we think the glue gave out in the cold.

IMG_0827We spent this weekend unpacking and trying to put everything away. The plan is to give the landlord’s kitchen stuff and linens back and phase in our own things, which sounds simple, but there’s just. so. much. I did find my bread baking equipment and baked for the first time since August. The sourdough starter — our other pet — travelled here in my suitcase, and I’ve been feeding it, just haven’t baked with it. Someday I’d love to take a class with a real baker and learn how to gauge temperature and hydration properly; being self-taught in the the tropics has not prepared me for the far colder and drier conditions here. To make the whole project riskier, I used an unknown flour that could be pretty much anything. If anyone can read the label and identify it, please let me know. My best guess is that it’s rye or something close: it was very dry and dense while kneading and made a dark loaf. (This is 1/3 mystery flour and 2/3 white.)

Anyway, it’s Sunday night, and all my clothes and personal things are put away. We shored up the bookcases, and Mr. Handy is switching our tv for the landlord’s. Overall? Just like Christmas.

UPDATE: The mystery flour is barley! I look forward to experimenting further…

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Interim Housing

IMG_0687That building looming in the background is our temporary housing while we look for a more permanent apartment. It’s a great old building, close to work and plenty of other amenities. And we have amazing views and lots of southern exposure (i.e. sun).


Unfortunately, the “kitchen” is tucked under those eaves, so what’s sticking out on the right side of the photo is the refrigerator.

But here’s a shot out the window early one morning:


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Moving Brings Out the Crazy

Now that it’s over, I’ll say that the move itself was pretty entertaining, spread as it was over several days and modes of transportation. We’d tried to sort and discard as much as possible to prepare for the day the movers came, but there was still a mortifying amount of stuff. Plus, it’s really embarrassing to have strangers see exactly what one considers worthy of moving across a continent. Pounds and pounds of coffee beans, for example, and Phil:

Phil, our Komodo Dragon

Phil, our Komodo Dragon

Never having used professional movers before, I was unprepared for how thorough they would be. Everything not specifically designated Not to move was packed, which sounds obvious, and is, but I expect we’ll open boxes to find empty plastic bags, stray paperclips and little shards of soap in with what we wanted to move.

Bringing a cat across international boundaries is now familiar to us, so I should have been more relaxed about how our overfed American pet exceeds the in-cabin weight limits. (5kg/11lbs for both the animal AND the carrier?) I’m really bad at lying to authority figures and dreaded a confrontation at the check-in counter. But Malaysia Boleh: they just asked to see her, so I hoisted the carrier up, saying, “Comel, eh?” And that was enough.

Here she is in the carrier and under my coat during our layover in Seoul:IMG_0628IMG_0615

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